Wednesday June 30th 2021
June finds Thunder and us still tucked into our site #217 at LHR (Lake Huron Resort), and just as last month, this photo was taken by Miss Laurie of an old, long grey haired, hippie dude, on the roof of our coach, from our site not the windshield as our windshield is now covered with our sun shade for the summer. While reviewing some drone shots it became very obvious that it was time to wash the roof, and perform some maintenance and realignment of the solar panels on the roof. The roof was very dirty, so I removed the solar panels to give it a good scrubbing. And decided to take the time to rework the solar panel mounting characteristics, to ease the tilting of the solar panels in preparation for boondocking this winter.
June 2017: Five years ago we were still in our sticks and bricks, but were preparing heading out on Thunders (and our) maiden trip, So our house was going to be listed for sale the end of this month, and we were planning a four week shake down trip that would start the last week of June and run into the first three weeks of July. It involved an international Lions convention in Chicago, a Scentsy convention in Kansas City, as well as some exploring and learning time for us.
As we planned for this little adventure which would teach us so very many things and one was about trying to book campgrounds, which we learnt quickly that travelling in the United States in the summer months camping areas were difficult if not impossible to find. And of course now we know that booking campgrounds any where at any time is a time consuming and frustrating task. That is why we also decided a couple of things on that first trip, we learned boondocking has many advantages and that most campgrounds are quite crowed and tight, at least for a forty foot coach.
Miss Laurie enjoying a cocktail while boondocking in downtown Chicago.
It was here that we first found out how little we actually knew about boondocking, and camping in general, but it also helped us learn the difference between “location” and “destination” camping.
This was obviously a “location” camping spot as we were able to walk to the Lions convention from our boondocking location. And really this photo doesn’t do this spot justice because we were actually a short bike ride to the Lake Michigan shore, the Bears stadium, and many bike trails running all along the lake. This was actually a truck staging area and had lots of trucks rolling through at all hours, and while not being in a great part of Chicago, we had no issues. This spot was not free as we paid $28.00 per night to boondock there, but we were able to Uber to many different attractions and also had a great view of the July 4th fireworks display along the lakeshore.
June 2018: Found us at Fifty Point Conservation Area on the west end of Lake Ontario, this was our second month here and while we had to change our site because of booking issues was more of a staging area as we prepared for our journey to the east coast in July. So lots of things were happening, the purchase of our Ford SporTrac and setting it up to tow four down, selling the tow dolly we had just purchased eight months earlier, the purchasing our kayaks, installing a kayak carrier on the roof of the SporTrac, and a bike rack on the hitch of the SporTrac.
And while much of that sounded quick and easy it was not without lots of problems, most of which were with the prepping of the SporTrac to be towed four down. Because we needed to be able to put the four wheel drive transfer case into neutral to avoid damage to the transmission. Because it is all controlled by switches and an electronic control, we needed a kit from Ford to allow this to happen, well the issue was while Ford still showed that the kit as available but there were none in the Ford parts system. So with a little research I discovered that the kit consisted of a micro switch and a led lamp, the micro switch mounted in the shift console to ensure the shifter is in neutral and the led would light to indicate the transfer case was in neutral. The real kick was that kit was $248 and we quoted another two hundred to install it. So when the Ford dealer we were purchasing it from couldn’t supply the kit, I got them to reprogram the transfer ECU (Electronic Control Unit) to accept a neutral signal, and I found a micro switch and a led lamp at an electronic shop for $12 and installed it myself, and it has worked well ever since.
I was able to get a used Roadmaster tow bar with a brake control that saved us over a thousand dollars, and all I had to locate was a set of towing plates from Roadmaster to bolt onto the SporTrac. And after multiple phone calls the mounting plates were located in British Columbia and were shipped to us in Ontario with time to spare. Roadmaster has been a leader with towing equipment for years, and while this would be a new experience for us it was also such a quick process hooking up and unhooking when needed, obviously a huge improvement over the tow dolly. The tow dolly allowed us to move a vehicle that we already owned but the loading and unloading was such a task that it had stopped us from seeing some sites and visiting places that we would have liked to.
June 2019: Site 217 at LHR (Lake Huron Resort), work camping, because there was no travel involved I have decided to just make a collage of phots taken at the park during that period.
June 2020: Site 89 at LHR (Lake Huron Resort), work camping, because there was no travel involved, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, again I have decided to just make a collage of phots taken at the park during that period.
June 2021: Site 217 at LHR (Lake Huron Resort) work camping, with the pandemic lock down starting to be relaxed we are starting to gain a hope that the border will open by fall and we will be able to roll down the road. So we have started to prepare for the fall as you seen on the first photo a good roof scrubbing, we use truck washes as required on the road but roof cleaning at truck washes only consists of spraying the roof, no scrubbing involved. We will surely be boondocking this fall and tilting the solar panels can increase the output from the panels by 25% or more so is a necessity to fully enjoy all of our creature comforts. And what we learned from experience is that we want the sun on our drivers side of the coach, we used to think we preferred the passenger side but learnt that it adds stress to our refrigerator in the direst sun, and often if it is windy we can’t keep the awning out, so it can be too hot for us as well. So by tilting the panels the other way we can either sit under the awning or move to the drivers side for our sunshine. So the solar panel mounts is a project that I have just kept putting off, so long over do. The photos below show the difference from dirty to clean!
The above photos show our solar array, four 175 watt panels and two 210 watt panels for a total of 1.12 kilowatts. It seems to have sufficient output to keep our 600 amp/hours of lithium batteries charged while boondocking in Arizona, but to get the most from the panels they need to be tilted toward the winter sun. And of course it took us (me) about a year to realize that I needed to tilt them to the drivers side of the coach, to keep our refrigerator vents out of the direct sun. So now an important part of picking a camping site is what direction will the coach be facing, west is preferred, which puts the sunset in the windshield and shade on the our refrigerator.
I have to talk about the pandemic, as it has caused us to miss a winter of travel, as well as the lives of some very good friends. Today is the 18th of June and today Ontario has just today reached our required levels of vaccination for stage 2 of the reopening, and are only 5% away from the requirements for stage 3. We also learned that the land border will remain closed at least till July 21 2021, this did not come as a complete surprise but I had hopped to see some softening of restrictions and possible re-opening soon after Canada Day and the Fourth of July long weekend. But there has been a lot of discussion which is a good sign for the future. I have my second shot booked for next week, and Miss Laurie should be able to get her second vaccine shot early in July which is great news. And with the vaccine rate of people 12 years and older still climbing it is reassuring that even the antivaxxers are getting shots, I guess the fear of an agonizing hospital stay, isn’t the desirable outcome even after attending some anti whatever rally.
Although we have not yet been able to get a good photo of the eagle that is patrolling our section of the lake shore, the general bird population has lessened since spring and the eagles arrival. Although the oriel population seems to be regular visitors to our site for their sugar fix. We haven’t had the chipmunks of last year, but we still have the occasional black squirrel visits and of course the hummingbirds are daily visitors, and the robin population appears to be growing.
Well its June 29th and I decided that I had better close out this blog today, we have just been through monsoon season, last weekend brought a huge quantity of rain and wind, the park suffered minimal damage, one branch down, so limited water damage from run off, but the majority was soaked into soil suffering from an extra dry spring. Now we are in the middle of an extended heat event that is seeing temperatures in the Canadian west that even surpassed Las Vegas yesterday at 47C (117F). I received my second vaccine last week with no side effects other than a little soreness in my arm, Miss Laurie has her second shot booked for July, and Canada is kicking butt with vaccinations now with 67.258% of all Canadians having at least one shot and 77.252% of the population that is eligible for a vaccine having received a shot. Now because Canada had suffered from a short supply of vaccine early we extended the time between first and second shots so now as of yesterday everyone eligible, can book for their second shot so as of today 32.951% have had their second vaccine, with Ontario sitting at 35.287% of the eligible population being fully vaccinated and we have exceeded the stage three requirements by more than 10% and climbing quickly because of more than a quarter of a million vaccines being administered everyday.
So tonight at midnight Ontario starts into stage 2 of the latest reopening plan, which means that Ontario can get their hair cut but still can not enter a restaurant to be served, that’s still at least 21 days away, it allows gatherings of 25 people with proper social distancing, but here at the park, I can only think of two or three sites that are large enough for that many to gather 2 meters (6 feet) apart. It allows groups of 5 to gather indoors with proper precautions, so now we can have overnight guests and restaurant patio service has increased to 6 per table from the 4 that it presently is. The retail stores can increase the percentage of capacity and I think that malls can now open with a limited capacity, it is very obvious that the people in control have been burnt by opening too fast previously. But no matter what some of the special people say, vaccines are the only path out of this, I had a good laugh they just announced a survey where 29% of the people said they had broke at least one covid guideline, I almost choked on my beer that number is in reality north of 79% as we have seen every day since they came into effect, the stay at home order was a joke as seen by the number of looky lous that drove a mile down a dead end road to tour through the park and when asked about the stay at home we just got the dumber than dirt look from most of them. Yah the 29% number probably should be 89% if there was a true definition of essensial travel, but I think because of the vaccine we are truly on the end of the pandemic here in Ontario, as we see Australia battling with another outbreak because of low vaccination rates, I have no belief that it is under control in the world, in fact I have my doubts about the States being protected from the fourth wave in the fall because of areas like Mississippi only being at 33% vaccinated, I’m just thinking it is a ticking time bomb.
So as I close out this blog, I am looking very forward to what July brings to us as, and we start to plan for October 20th and our trip south, we need to touch base with people, and start a route that will take us south through the Gulf of Mexico in Texas on our way to Arizona. I need to purchase a few items and get them shipped so we can pick them up on our way, one thing I do know for sure is that this is not going to be a fast trip and we are going to try to use a lot of spots on the Harvest Host network as we head south as well as hopefully a muuchdocking spot in Ohio for a few days. For those not familiar with Harvest Host it is a new work of farms and businesses through Canada and the United states that offers boondocking spots to members for free, just like a campsite you call and book a spot for an evening, it is usually the parking lot, there are no hook ups and all they ask is that you visit the buisness or farm and if you see something you like make a purchase. Now I know your wondering what kind of buisness and that answer is difficult to pin down, there are a lot of wineries, distilleries, breweries, fruit and vegetable farms, museums, as well as some attractions. The cranberry farm up in Bala Ontario, “Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh” is a Harvest Host, the photo shows a few of the near 2500 across the States, Canada, and Baja Mexico. It even includes some 400 golf courses, talk about a quiet, beautiful spot to over night and usually comes with a discounted green fee either the night before of the next morning, kind of a little ok … jus’saying.